To Trust the Incarnation: An Interview with Sara Miles
Editor’s Note: Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion took the time to answer three questions which I felt might be useful to our readers. Very often the organized structures of “religion” are put at odds with those of our personal religious experience or “spirituality.” Many church goers are secure in their routine and not really open to the uncontrollable God. Many spiritual people rejoice in a the delights of a life lived far from the annoying humanity of our neighbors and the concerns of those struggling to get by on the margins. Sara Miles’ spiritual memoir challenges us to go beyond religion and spirituality and to live the Divine Mystery.
Randy Pozos: How would you advise parents and godparents to prepare their children for First Communion?
Sarah Miles: I’m probably not the best person to answer this, as I took my own first communion as an unbaptized adult, at the age of 46. My church, St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (www.saintgregorys.org) offers communion to everyone, without exception, believing that Jesus welcomes everyone to his Table — and that his chosen sign was eating with outcasts, sinners, the unclean and the unprepared.
I believe that churches can prepare people to be members of churches; they can catechize children and adults to understand church doctrine and practices. But nobody can be “prepared” for the experience of God, because God is here, right now, making all things new: whether you are ready or not.
Randy Pozos: It seems that in your experience there is a direct, almost tangible, relationship between communion and your food pantry ministry of feeding and being fed by others. How would you encourage others to find and celebrate that transcendent experience of Eucharist in other ministries and occupations?
Sara Miles: Eucharist is a Great Thanksgiving: whenever we pour ourselves out, giving not only to our friends and loved ones but to our enemies and to strangers, we participate in Jesus’ feast, and share a “foretaste of the Kingdom” where all will be united in a heavenly banquet.
The connection between Eucharist and daily life is not mysterious: in fact, the liturgy is a reminder that it is precisely the most ordinary things of our lives (eating, drinking, kissing) that are suffused with God’s presence.
Randy Pozos: As a journalist and author, it seemed that you brought a poetic vision of a reality beyond the common sense experience of bread and wine. How can we engender this sensibility in ourselves and others and be ready for this experience of surprise and wonder?
Sara Miles: There’s a wonderful quote from Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury, who says, in an essay on the martyr Etty Hillesum, “A religious life is a material life. Forget for a moment the arguments we might have about the definition of the ‘spiritual’; living religiously is a way of conducting a bodily life.”
To trust the Incarnation is to open yourself to God in the “common sense” experiences of human life. This means inevitably opening yourself to more pain, more suffering– and more joy.